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Richard Steven Valenzuela, known professionally as Ritchie Valens, was an American guitarist, singer and songwriter. A rock and roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement, Valens was killed in a plane crash eight months into his music career.
On February 3, 1959, on what has become known as “The Day the Music Died”, Valens died in a plane crash in Iowa, an accident that also claimed the lives of fellow musicians Buddy Holly and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, as well as pilot Roger Peterson. Valens was 17 at the time of his death. In 2001, Valens was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Valens had several hits, most notably “La Bamba”, which he had adapted from a Mexican folk song. Valens transformed the song into one with a rock rhythm and beat, and it became a hit in 1958, making Valens a pioneer of the Spanish-speaking rock and rollmovement. He also had an American number-two hit with “Donna”.